As it stands right now in Florida, any driver who refuses to take a breathalyzer test could face a year-long suspension of their driver's license. Now, a new bill has been submitted to the state senate that could dramatically increase those penalties with additional fines and other measures to compel driver compliance.
As the Sun Sentinel reports, Senator David Simmons filed the bill on December 28, 2015. The bill proposes that drivers who refuse a breathalyzer test should be fined between $500 and $1000, lose four points on their license, and receive six months’ probation. It also would make these penalties immutable, meaning that a judge would not be able to alter, lessen, or suspend them.
Additionally, the bill would make a second refusal a first-degree misdemeanor. Along with the possible $1,000 fine and year in jail, penalties for this charge can also include the installation of an ignition interlock device on the convicted driver's vehicle for a year.
Refusing a breathalyzer test is a violation of Florida's implied consent law, which states that all drivers must comply with law enforcement's request to submit to a breathalyzer test when there is suspicion that the driver is intoxicated. While administrative penalties have always been associated with this kind of refusal, this new bill, if passed, would bring criminal penalties to drivers who refuse the test, as well.
Why increased penalties now?
According to statistics provided by MADD, the prevalence of drunk driving in Florida has been improving over the last decade. There were 60,574 DUI arrests in the state in 2002 and only 40,677 in 2014. Alcohol-related traffic deaths are also down 65% between 1982 and 2013.
So if statistics are improving, why is there still a legislative push to strengthen DUI laws? The Sun concludes that a number of recent, high-profile DUI cases have made drunk driving a persistent hot topic among Florida communities. In November 2013, Broward Country Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Imperato was stopped for drunk driving and, in 2015, Miami Dade County Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz was stopped, as well. Both drivers refused breathalyzer tests.
If you have been arrested for DUI and are facing both administrative and criminal penalties, then we invite you to contact Beckham Solis, Attorneys at Law today. Our legal team of dedicated Miami DUI defense lawyers has more than 50 years of combined experience in this practice area. We are well-versed in the challenges that the accused face following these charges and aggressively protect their rights and interests throughout every step of their case.
Want to learn what your DUI defense options are? Contact us today to request a free case evaluation.